The new casual upstairs dining space at Club Five Dock, which will be run by two local restauranteurs.

Experienced catering operator Antonio Sabia and former local restauranteur Carmel Ruggeri have joined forces to open La Casa, a new dining venue on the just-renovated first level of Club Five Dock RSL in Sydney’s inner west.

The Level 1 refurbishment by local builder Paul Robinson (World Class Constructions & Homes) had EGMs from the former rooftop gaming lounge moved downstairs and the rooftop venue opened up with terrace, deck and casual lounge designed by Split Watermelon and bright furniture from Mint to create an alfresco vibe.

“The new concept for the first floor was to create a space that was attractive to markets outside the traditional club clientele, that provide multiple functions and drinking environments including casual/lounge areas, casual ‘come and go’ food and drinking areas and a mixed zone function space which wasn’t available in the local area,” Club Five Dock RSL CEO David Conway said.

Sabia owned Puntino Restaurant in Woolloomooloo for 20 years and has been operating food stands at festivals around Australia for more than a decade. He is also a consultant to Smeg Commercial Kitchens. Ruggeri, who grew up in the area, opened the original La Casa in 2009 in Five Dock with her brother Tony, the venue winning numerous awards over the years before they sold. Ruggeri remained in hospitality after selling her restaurant, hosting food tours in Sydney and Sicily. 

“I’ve run cooking classes, pop-up events, had a home delivery dinner service and about three years ago I started working with Antonio from Puntino Catering & Events,” she said.

Ruggeri was operations manager for Puntino’s large-scale outdoor events, including the Royal Easter Show and Opera Australia events at Cockatoo Island and Mrs Maquaries Chair. Together, the pair have built a solid friendship and an enjoyable, professional business relationship. 

At Club Five Dock RSL, the duo will operate both the upstairs casual restaurant space, which seats 80, as well as the function areas which can accommodate 270 seated or 180 with a dance floor. A smaller room can accommodate functions for up to 170 people.

“Antonio is the master at functions so we look forward to catering to many events in the newly renovated function rooms on Level 1,” Ruggeri said.

In La Casa restaurant, with Ruggeri’s Sicilian background, Sabia’s Basilicata heritage and a head chef from Venice, the trio will no doubt be offering an array of delicious Italian delights. 

“Club Five Dock RSL ultimately decided to go with a proven local operator in  Carmel Ruggeri and Antonio Sabia to provide a range of food options from Mediterranean inspired – in keeping with the décor and local area – to Modern Australian and cater to guests from intimate groups to over 400 patrons,” Conway said.  

The casual menu is meant for sharing at the new La Casa in Club Five Dock.

La Casa restaurant’s share-style menu will feature antipasti and a cured meat board in addition to bite-size offerings such as Italian street food, ragusane scacce, a popular stuffed pastry filled with onion and tomato. Arancini, potato and baccala croquettes, plus buffalo wings and pizza “fingers” will also feature. 

Kids will love the lamb skewers, burgers and fish tacos while dessert options will range from profiteroles and panna cotta to tiramisu and cannoli. Prices range from $12 for bruschetta up to $88 for the huge cured meat board for four. 

“Being the new caterers for Level 1 at the club is an awesome opportunity for Antonio and I,” Ruggeri said. “We are really looking forward to the opening of The Terrace, a super cool space that has been created for locals to enjoy a drink and a light bite in beautiful surroundings right in the heart of our beloved Five Dock.” 

Sabia said there was keen interest in both the events spaces and the restaurant. 

“Advance bookings are looking good,” he said. “People are coming through and wanting to know all about it. Now that word is out, we are looking forward to welcoming both old friends and new patrons alike into the club.”

Part of the Club Five Dock rooftop fitout by Split Watermelon with furniture by Mint.

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